Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

U.S.-Pakistan Freeze Chokes Fallback Route in Afghanistan

Rod Nordland New York Times   June 3, 2012

SALANG PASS, Afghanistan — Nowhere is the impact of Pakistan’s ban on NATO truck traffic more visible than here at the top of the Hindu Kush, on one of the only alternative overland routes for supply convoys to reach Kabul and the rest of the country.

For 20 miles north and south of the old Soviet-built tunnel at Salang Pass, thousands of trucks are idled beside the road, waiting for a turn to get through its perilous, one-and-a-half-mile length.

This is the only passable route for heavy truck traffic bringing NATO supplies in from the Central Asian republics to the north, as they now must come.

There are other roads, but they are often single-lane dirt tracks through even higher mountain passes, or they are frequently subject to ambushes by insurgents and bandits. So a tunnel built to handle 1,000 vehicles a day, and until the Pakistani boycott against NATO in November handling 2,000, now tries — and often fails — to let 10,000 vehicles through, alternating northbound and southbound truck traffic every other day.

“It’s only a matter of time until there’s a catastrophe,” said Lt. Gen. Mohammad Rajab, the head of maintenance for the Salang Pass. “One hundred percent certain, there will be a disaster, and when there is, it’s not a disaster for Afghanistan alone, but for the whole international community that uses this road.” He said 90 percent of the traffic now was trailer and tanker trucks carrying NATO supplies.

Please see the original and read more here

June 3, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NATO, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SIGIR Audit Finds Some U.S. CERP Funds Went to Insurgents in Iraq

Funds from a $4 billion program intended to improve relations between the two countries were siphoned off by the enemy, a new audit finds. Eli Lake reports on why CERP was still called a success.

 

A translator for the 3-89 Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division (R) takes money from a U.S. soldier to give to the Sons of Iraq, a security group that was funded by the United States, on May 11, 2008 in Baghdad, Chris Hondros / Getty Images

Eli Lake at The Daily Beast   April 29, 2012

During the war in Iraq, battalion commanders were allocated packets of $100 bills and authorized to use them for anything from repairing a schoolhouse to paying off ex-rebels and paying blood money to the families of innocents killed by U.S. forces. But a new audit finds that in some cases that cash made its way to the pockets of the very insurgents the United States was trying to fight.

The money was part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), and from 2004 to 2011 the U.S. government poured $4 billion into it in Iraq. And because the Pentagon gauged CERP a success, a similar initiative is under way in Afghanistan. “We think CERP is an absolutely critical and flexible counterinsurgency tool,” Michele Flournoy, who was then undersecretary of defense for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2010.

But was CERP really a success in Iraq? A 2012 audit conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and released to the public on Monday found that 76 percent of the battalion commanders surveyed believed at least some of the CERP funds had been lost to fraud and corruption. “Commanders sometimes perceived the corruption as simply a price of doing business in Iraqi culture and others perceived it as presenting a significant impediment to U.S. goals,” the report says. “Several asserted that reconstruction money may have ended up in the hands of insurgents.”

Please see the original and read the entire article here

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two French Soldiers shot dead by rogue Afghan soldier

Reuters Paris Thursday December 29, 2011

Two French soldiers were killed on Thursday when an Afghan army soldier shot at them deliberately while their unit was engaged in a support mission for Afghanistan’s forces in the Tagab valley, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said.

The shooting was the latest in a string of attacks by “rogue” soldiers and police, or by insurgents who had infiltrated security forces, that have killed dozens of foreign soldiers.

It was also the second such incident in a week, after a December 24 attack in western Farah province in which an Afghan army spokesman said four Americans were wounded. The shooter, who had spent 14 months in the army, was killed on the spot, he added.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said an Afghan soldier had turned his weapon on ISAF forces on December 24, but declined further comment.

Such attacks are especially damaging as the Afghan National Army (ANA) tries to win public trust before Afghan forces take full responsibility for security nationwide. Foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Please read the entire story here

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

At Kabul airport, exodus of U.S. aid goes on

U.S. agencies have “limited visibility over U.S. cash that enters the Afghan economy — leaving it vulnerable to fraud and diversion to the insurgency,” SIGAR said in a statement.

by Jason Ukman at The Washington Post  July 20, 2011

Kabul’s international airport has long been seen as a virtual black hole for foreign currency, the perfect venue through which travelers can smuggle out hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid that was intended for development projects.

More than a year after The Washington Post first disclosed American concerns about the airport, a report released Wednesday by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction concludes that attempts to choke off the exodus of cash have been plagued by a hard-to-fathom set of obstacles.

The installation of currency-counting machines to better trace illicit funds at the airport — one of the centerpieces of a plan by the Department of Homeland Security — was delayed by seven months because U.S. and Afghan officials could not agree on where to put them.

Once the machines were installed, in April, Afghan customs officials began using them to count the cash but not to record serial numbers or to report financial data, necessary steps to determine whether the money being carried out of the country had been siphoned from aid flowing in.

It took eight months for U.S. and Afghan officials to agree on where to place signs at the airport informing passengers of the requirement to declare cash totalling more than $22,000. Americans officials were unable to get approval to place the signs at the entrance to the airport, so they are now located beyond the point where passengers pass through customs.

“As a result,” the report noted, “passengers are not informed of the requirement to declare the currency until it is too late.”

Meantime, VIPs are still allowed to leave the airport without having their cash scanned through the currency counters — one of the main points of concern for U.S. officials, who believe some businessmen are carrying bagfuls of illicit cash to the Persian Gulf and elsewhere

Please read the entire post at Checkpoint Washington

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, State Department, USAID | , , , | Leave a comment

Contractor killed in insurgent attack at U.S. base in Afghanistan

Washington Post

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Insurgents, some of them wearing suicide vests, attacked one of the U.S. military’s largest and most populous bases Wednesday morning, the second ambitious attack in as many days and a sign that the Taliban movement may have launched its yearly spring offensive`

There are few installations as well fortified as Bagram Airfield, but this did not stop insurgents from staging a pre-dawn assault with gunfire, rockets and grenades. The fighting, which broke out at more than one location outside Bagram, killed one U.S. contractor, injured nine U.S. service members and inflicted minor damage on one of the base buildings, military officials said.

The guard force on the base battled insurgents intensely for about two hours, until about 6 a.m., but sporadic gunfire could be heard for several more hours. Ten of the attackers, including four wearing explosives, were killed in the assault, officials said.

“Though it is clear the enemy intended a spectacular event” at Bagram Airfield, “they were unable to breach the perimeter and unable to detonate their suicide vests,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Clarence Count Jr., a military spokesman, said in a statement.

The assault on Bagram came a day after a suicide car bomber targeted a U.S. convoy in Kabul, killing five U.S. troops, a Canadian and at least 12 Afghan civilians. That was the deadliest day of the year for American troops, as two more died in separate bombings.

he Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. Earlier this month, the Taliban announced its own planned offensive to counter the NATO efforts that are focused on the southern city of Kandahar. The radical Islamist group called its operation “al-Fatah,” or Victory. Fighting in Afghanistan usually tapers off in the cold winter months and then accelerates in the spring and summer.

The choice of Bagram as a target surprised many people. Insurgents tend to avoid confronting American military might head-on, particularly such a large installation.

Insurgents have fired rockets at the base in the past, but the assault was “not something that commonly happens quite in this way,” said Master Sgt. Tom Clementson, a U.S. military spokesman.

“That’s a dog chasing a school bus. You don’t attack Bagram with 20 guys,” one U.S. official said. “Either they’re crazy or brave or both.”   Original Story here

May 19, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties | , , , , , , | Leave a comment